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5 of the world’s most unique marathons

If you’re an experienced runner keen on expanding your marathon portfolio, or even if you’ve never taken on a marathon but simply dream of trying out something new, Kayak ( has rounded up a list of events to try.

Take on one of these five unique marathon challenges and you’re sure to return with stories that’ll impress your friends and create lasting memories for years to come.

1. Inca Trail Marathon (Peru)

Since 1996, the Inca Trail Marathon in Peru has been captivating marathon lovers and history buffs around the world. Offered both as a 30 km race and as a full marathon, this event is held annually on an “informal” basis. As the run is held in National Park territory, event organisers have decided to keep the event low-key, with no bib numbers and a limited number of entrants allowed.

Following the original pilgrimage trail to the legendary Incan city Machu Picchu, the course starts at an altitude above 3,000 metres, in Cusco, passing by Inca fortresses and ruins as well as structures from the Spanish colonial era before descending through the lush “cloud forest trail”. With majestic Andean scenery side by side with Incan ruins, this is surely one of the most beautiful marathon courses, but it’s not to be taken lightly. If running 42 km at altitudes reaching above 4,000 metres doesn’t take your breath away, the views of Machu Picchu probably will.

Date: 1-9 June, 3-11 August 2019

2. Big Five Marathon (South Africa)

Safari in a jeep not exciting enough for you? Why not try one on foot? In the Entabeni game reserve in Limpopo province, South Africa, runners can experience life as a gazelle while running a route through the savannah. The course’s namesake Big 5 refers to the five biggest attractions for safari-goers – the Elephant, Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard, all of which you might witness while making your way along the course. Feel the thrill of running brazenly through lion territory, but don’t worry, the race is monitored by rangers stationed in the air and on the ground. In addition to the race, the package includes a regular safari tour from 4-WD, so you’ll have a chance to relax your legs and learn some more about the savannah ecosystem.

Date: 22 June 2019

3. Marathon du Médoc (France)

If you’re a wine lover as well as a runner, this merry-thon through France’s famous Bordeaux Medoc wine region is probably up your alley. Held during harvest season, the event passes through some of the world’s most famous wineries. In keeping with the festive mood, wine is offered alongside water at the watering stations, while many runners participate in the event in full fancy dress. Although the course isn’t strenuous, there are temptations around every corner – particularly in the second half of the course where you’ll find plates of ham, cheese, and even dishes of oysters and steaks waiting for you. Perhaps the only marathon you can complete without burning any calories.

Date: early September 2019 (date TBA, entry to start in March 2019)

4. FWD North Pole Marathon 2019

If you get overheated easily when running, this could be the ideal event for you. This unique race, the world’s only “ice marathon”, will cool you off nicely with its route traversing the frozen waters of the Arctic Ocean. With temperatures dropping as low as minus 30, you’ll have added motivation to keep moving and finish the course quickly, but if you’re seriously looking for an event to wow your friends, it should be right at the top of your list. After all, within a few hours after the race, you’ll have warmed up nicely, but your memories will last a lifetime.

Date: April 2010

5. The Great Wall Marathon (China)

As its name suggests, this is a unique marathon tournament running along the historic Great Wall of China. Traditionally held in May, the event is due to have its 20-year anniversary in 2019. With its route ascending sections of the Great Wall, runners will have upwards of 5,000 stairs to contend with, but the views from the top will make you forget the pain. If not, your race ticket will also earn you a free massage at the finish line.

Date: October 2019

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